17 September 1914

In the morning, George and Kittie left Ringwood and travelled to Southampton.  Here they said goodbye for the time being and Kittie returned to Hampstead.  After lunch George caught the train to Ludgershall and walked to the vast Windmill Hill Camp above the village.  Presumably his luggage was still at Ludgershall station.

He wrote to her at six o’clock this evening:

The plain begins here, hill after hill of dried grass, broken only by the railway line and a road here and there, and clumps of trees, and camp after camp on every side; here simply masses of horses in line, with the little tents between.  Life Guards on both sides and the R[oyal]H[orse]G[uards] in the middle.  The brigadier just behind a little wood at the top, with a row of tents for his staff.  Little groups of motor cars in sheltered spots. Down on the lines, here and there a saddler, or an armourer’s tent, and Gipsy smithies, where chargers are being reshod between an anvil and a pile of wooden boxes.

I went to a big tent which I was told was the RHG mess and a group of very big men came out, and one of them took me to a little tent and produced the Colonel; who then introduced me to the group and took me inside the mess tent and introduced me to everyone else in there.  All very big and robust; one young man with a charming face; I didn’t catch their names, except one or two.  ‘Dick’ (I think his surname), a sharp-faced man of 35 with 10 inches of medal ribbons on his left chest, called his motorcar and chauffeur out of the wood for me and sent me down (nice man) to fetch my luggage up in it.  They all seem to know each other well and have short names, like ‘Beefy’ or ‘Chips’.

One resolute bald robust fellow was very busy between the tents with a new range finder, and they all followed him and watched and helped over that.  And I and the particularly pleasant-faced young man chatted about ranges and judgment of distance.

Inside the mess-tent, another big fellow (the Duke of Roxburghe, I think he was) exhibited and explained a new pocket cooking apparatus, which he had had put together, with collapsible drinking cup, and everything inside everything else; and they all considered that with the same grave attention as they did the range finder.

I left them as soon as I had my tent, and have spent the rest of the time alone in my tent and on a long walk round the brigade and the neighbouring hill, to take the stiffness out.  I was attached by the Colonel to C squadron […] and the Quartermaster fetched up a soldier who is to be my servant.  He told me, with what sounded uncommonly like a break in the voice, that he had no duties henceforth but to look after me; but I couldn’t think of anything to tell him to do.  His name is Paterson.  I must look into this.  If there is nothing for him to do for me, except fetch a little water, surely I could ‘double-up’ with someone else on half a man.

Reveille at 5.30, parade at 7.  I know nothing as yet, as to whether to fall in or not; but I shall go in case.  Anyway no more tonight.  I must go to the mess tent and find what change of clothes to make for dinner.

I kept clear of them today a little out of policy; to get them used to the sight of me, without worrying them.  But when it’s dark I’m bound to go as I can’t sit by the light of a dull dip.  Heaps of love.  P.

It is interesting how detachedly, almost anthropologically, Calderon observes ‘them’.  A ‘dip’ is a night-light, and P stands for ‘Peter’, or ‘Peety’.

Next entry: A possible penny drops

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About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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